By Marc Lawrence — Cure Bowl-December 26 —- Liberty over Coastal Carolina by 6
How appropriate that this bowl provides the ‘cure’ for a Saturday card populated by seemingly ho-hum matchups. Although this pairing wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow at the beginning of the season, these two teams combined to go 19-1 SU in 2020, with the Flames’ only loss coming by a mere point at NC State a month ago. And if you want to talk about a dead-even situation, then try pairing a .900 or greater bowler with one loss on the season against an undefeated opponent. It’s where you’ll fi nd the favorite has gone 16-18-1 SU and 17-18 ATS since 1980, including 5-14-1 SU and 10-10 ATS of late. Even so, these are numbers the Chanticleers – ranked No. 9 in the latest AP poll – would gladly take in their quest to go undefeated, especially knowing there have been only four unbeaten bowl teams who won 5 or fewer games the previous season. The problem for CCU here is that those squads went 1-2- 1 SU, averaging 14.25 PPG, with none of them scoring more than 17 points. Yes, the Roosters beat two ranked opponents this year (BYU and UL-Lafayette) and managed to win four games SU up as underdogs. But while they outgained foes by a solid 108 YPG, Liberty won the stats over its opponents by a whopping 183 YPG.
Remember, too, that Flames head coach Hugh Freeze boasts a 10-5 SU and 12-3 ATS mark as a dog of 8 or fewer points, including 7-2 SU and 8-1 ATS when his team is coming off a win. Tonight’s 7:30 showdown is a ‘rematch’ of an earlier meeting between Liberty and CCU scheduled for December 5 that was canceled due to COVID related issues affecting the Flames. And with both head coaches getting contract extensions thanks to their success in 2020, this game will not be overshadowed by concerns that either Liberty’s Freeze or Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell will be bolting for greener pastures anytime soon. That being said, the bulk of the pressure here will undoubtedly be weighing on the Chanticleers, whose fate looks to be sealed by THE CLINCHER: Entering the 2020 bowl season, Sun Belt Conference Bowl favorites who won 8 or fewer games last season are 2-12 ATS all-time, including 0-7 ATS if they are facing a foe that allows fewer than 28 PPG.
Cheez-It Bowl-December 29
Miami Florida over Oklahoma St by 10
A big factor in evaluating bowl games is the motivation behind each team, and here we seem to have an OSU team that couldn’t care less about making this trip facing off with a Miami squad that’s counting the minutes until kick-off time. In fact, the redfaced Hurricanes have two traumatic experiences to make amends for this evening in Orlando. First is this year’s season-ending 62- 26 annihilation at the hands of North Carolina, where Miami’s prideful defense was battered, shattered, creamed and reamed by a Tar Heel offense that finished with an incredible 554 yards rushing. Then there’s the giant egg the ‘U’ laid against Louisiana Tech in last season’s 14-0 loss in the Independence Bowl as 6.5-point favorites – the only Power 5 team to ever be shut out by a Group of 5 opponent in bowl game history.
Folks, if that’s not enough motivation to catch a team’s fancy, then there isn’t any. Oklahoma State got off to a strong 4-0 start this season but lost traction to finish 3-3 SU in its final six games, including the Cowboys’ annual failure to get past rival OU. Miami is 7-3 SUATS versus the Big 12 since 1997, including 5-0 SUATS when not coming off an ATS win, and 2-0 SUATS in bowl games – by an average win 20 PPG. Unlike the Canes’ 36-point beat-down at UNC to wrap up regular season play, head coach Mike Gundy and his Pokes destroyed Baylor at Waco, 42-3. We mention that score because college bowl favorites coming off a spread win of 30-plus points are 8-16-1 ATS since 1999, including 5-13 ATS versus .600 or greater opponents. Then there’s Gundy’s 2-10 ATS failure off a SUATS win in which the Cowboys beat the spread by 25 or more points (0-5-1 ATS the last six, as well as 1-8-1 ATS as a favorite).
Look for Miami head coach Manny Diaz to wipe some hard-stained egg off his face here in this matchup of divergent ATS blowouts in each of their last games (UM -39 ATS points; OSU +32.5 ATS points). And right on time, the well-oiled machine supplies THE CLINCHER: Bowl dogs off one loss-exact as favorites are 25-9 ATS versus foes coming off a win of 17 or more points, including 6-0 ATS when coming off an ATS loss of more than 32 points.
LA Rams over SEATTLE by 11
Go figure. The Rams did not allow a second-half touchdown all season until the juggernaut known as the Jets finally found the end zone en route to the most stunning upset in the NFL this season. With the loss, the Rams fall a game behind Seattle in the NFC West, meaning for all intents and purposes this game is for the cheese for the horned visitors (they beat Seattle, 23-165, six weeks ago). Knowing that, Los Angeles enters with a glittery 6-1 ATS mark in its last seven division away games. They are also 5-0 ATS between the sixes (+6 to -6) in this series with a .500 or greater record when coming off a SU favorite loss. Meanwhile, Seattle enters 2-7 ATS in the first of first consecutive division games. In addition, the Seahawks are just 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS Last Home Games the past five seasons. And lest we forget, NFL teams who lose SU as a favorite of -14 or more points are 7-3-1 ATS the following game since 1989, including 5-1-1 ATS if they won 9 or more games last season. And FYI: There has been only one team in the NFL since 1980 that was installed as a dog after having been favored by 17 or more points the previous game – the Oakland Raiders in 2001, who won the game straight-up, 23-18. With that, we proceed directly to THE CLINCHER: NFL teams coming off a SU loss to a 0-8 or worse opponent are 7-0 ATS the following game when facing a .444 or greater foe coming off consecutive wins.
NEW ENGLAND over Buffalo by 6
This is not going to sit well for members of Bills Mafia. And it will probably even be a hard swallow for die-hard Patriots backers. After all, the king has fallen and the new successor to the throne invades the palace on Monday Night. But before folding the tent, you best be aware of the cast of players set to perform tonight. For openers, the Pats are 10-1 ATS last eleven as home dogs. They are also 4-1-2 ATS on Mondays. And then there is Bill Belichick’s 16-2 ATS record with New England in games as a dog off a loss when his troops sports do not own a winning record. With that, we usher in the new AFC East champion Bills (for the first time since 1995) and their 5-12 SU and 3-13-1 ATS log off consecutive wins when facing sub .750 AFC opponents, including 0-5-1 ATS in division games. And for what it’s worth, they are also 2-6 ATS division road favorites. So not only did New England’s skein of 11 straight playoff appearances go down the drain last week, so did its run of 17 consecutive seasons with double-digit wins. Expect them to be in a surly mood tonight. And with it we’re snapping the rubber band knowing THE CLINCHER: New England is 16-3 SUATS at home when looking to avenge a same-season division loss under Bill Belichick, including 16-0 SU and 15-1 ATS the last sixteen games.